Ravenshoe, by Henry Kingsley

Chapter 22.

The Last Glimpse of Oxford.

Oxford. The front of Magdalen Hall, about which the least said the soonest mended. On the left, further on, All Souls, which seems to have been built by the same happy hand winch built the new courts of St. John’s Cambridge, (for they are about equally bad). On the right, the Clarendon and the Schools, blocking out the western sky. Still more to the right, a bit of Exeter, and all Brazenose. In front the Radcliff, the third dome in England, and, beyond, the straight facade of St. Mary’s, gathering its lines upward ever, till, tired of window and buttress, of crocket, finial, gargoyle, and all the rest of it, it leaps up aloft in one glorious crystal, and carries up one’s heart with it into the heaven above.

Charles Ravenshoe and Marston. They stood side by side on the pavement, and their eyes roamed together over the noble mass of architecture, passing from the straight lines, and abrupt corner of the Radcliff, on to the steeple of St. Mary’s. They stood silent for a moment, and then Marston said —

“Serve him right,”

“Why?” said Charles.

“Because he had no business to be driving tandem at all. He can’t afford it. And, besides, if he could, why should he defy the authorities by driving tandem? Nobody would drive tandem if it wasn’t forbidden.”

“Well, he is sent down, and therefore your virtue may spare him.”

“Sent down!” said Marston, testily, “he never ought to have come up. He was only sent here to be pitch-forked through the schools, and get a family living.”

“Well, well,” said Charles; “I was very fond of him.”

“Pish!” said Marston. Whereat Charles laughed uproariously, and stood in the gutter. His mirth was stopped by his being attacked by a toothless black and tan terrier, who was so old that he could only bark in a whisper, but whose privilege it was to follow about one of the first divinity scholars of the day, round the sunniest spots in the town. The dog having been appeased, Charles and Marston stood aside, and got a kindly smile from the good old man, in recognition of their having touched their caps to him.

“Charley,” said Marston, “I am so glad to hear of your going on so well. Mind you, if you had stuck to your work sooner, you would have had more than a second in Moderations. You must, and you shall, get a first, you know. I will have it.”

“Never, my boy, never; ” said Charles; “I haven’t head for it,”

“Nonsense. You are a great fool; but you may get your first.”

Thereupon Charles laughed again, louder than before, and wanted to know what his friend had been eating to upset his liver. To which Marston answered “Bosh!” and then they went clown Oriel Lane, “And so by Merton,” as the fox-hunters say, to Christ Church Meadow.

“I am glad you are in the University eight,” said .Marston; “it will do you a vast deal of good. You used to over — value that sort of thing, but I don’t think that you do so now. You can’t row or ride yourself into a place in the world, but that is no reason why you should not row or ride. I wish I was heavy enough to row. Who steers today?

“The great Panjandrum.”

“I don’t like the great Panjandrum. I think him slangy. And I don’t pardon slang in any one beyond a very young bachelor.”

“I am very fond of him,” said Charles, “and you are bilious, and out of humour with every one in heaven and earth, except apparently me. But, seriously speaking, old man, I think you have had something to vex you, since you came up yesterday. I hav’n’t seen you since you were at Ravenshoe, and you are deucedly altered, do you know?”

“I am sure you are wrong, Charles. I have had nothing — Well, I never lie. I have been disappointed in something, but I have fought against it so, that I am sure you must be wrong. I cannot be altered.”

“Tell me what has gone wrong, Marston. Is it in money matters? If it is, I know I can help you there.”

“Money. Oh! dear, no; ” said Marston. “Charley, you are a good fellow. You are the best fellow I ever met, do you know? But I can’t tell you what is the matter now.”

“Have I been doing anything?” said Charles eagerly.

“You have been doing a great deal to make me like and respect you, Charles; but nothing to make me unhappy. Now, answer me some questions, and let us change the subject. How is your father?”

“Dear old dad is very well. I got a letter from him today.”

“And how is your brother?”

“Well in health, but weak in mind, I fear. I am very much afraid that I shall be heir of Ravenshoe.”

“Why 1 is he going mad?”

“Not a bit of it, poor lad. He is going into a religious house, I am afraid. At least he mentioned that sort of thing the last time he wrote to me, as if he was trying to bring me face to face with the idea; and be sure my dearly beloved Father Mackworth will never let the idea rest.”

“Poor fellow! And how is Adelaide the beautiful?”

“Shes all right,” said Charles. “She and Aunt are the best friends in the world.”

“They always were, weren’t they?”

“Why, you see,” said Charles, “sometimes Aunt was cross, and Adelaide is very high-spirited, you know. Exceedingly high-spirited?’

“Indeed?”

“Oh, yes, very much so; she didn’t take much nonsense from Lady Hainault, I can tell you.”

“Well,” said Marston, “to continue my catechizing, how is William?”

“He is very well. Is there no one else you were going to ask after?”

“Oh, yes. Miss Corby?”

“She is pretty well, I believe, in health, but she does not seem quite so happy as she was,” said Charles, looking at Marston, suddenly.

He might as well have looked at the Taylor building, if he expected any change to take place in Marston’s face. He regarded him with a stony stare, and said —

“Indeed. I am sorry to hear that.”

“Marston,” said Charles, “I once thought that there was something between you and her.”

“That is a remarkable instance of what silly notions get into vacant minds,” said Marston steadily. Whereat Charles laughed again.

At this point, being opposite the University barge, Charles was hailed by a West-countryman of Exeter, whom we shall call Lee, who never met with Charles without having a turn at talking Devonshire with him. He now began at the top of his voice, to the great astonishment of the surrounding dandies.

“Where be gwine? Charles Ravenshoe, where be gwine?”

“We’ni gwine for a ride on the watter, Jan Lee.”

“Be gwine in the Varsity eight, Charles Ravenshoe?”

“Yes, sure.”

“How do’e feel? Dont’e feel afeard?"

“Ma dear soul, I’ve got such a wambling in my innards, and — ”

“We are waiting for you, Ravenshoe,” said the Captain; and, a few minutes after, the University eight rushed forth on her glorious career, clearing her way through the crowd of boats, and their admiring rowers, towards Iffley.

And Marston sat on the top of the University barge, and watched her sweeping on towards the distance, and then he said to himself —

“Ah! there goes the man I like best in the world, who don’t care for the woman I love best in the world, who is in love with the man before mentioned, who is in love with a woman who don’t care a hang for him. There is a certain left-handedness in human affairs.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44